Terrified of Public Speaking? How to Get the Words Flowing

If you're required to give presentations at work -- or if speaking in front of an audience is something that you feel called to do, in spite of your fear -- this article is for you. This five-step process can be a great start to resolve those gnawing fears about talking in a front of a group.
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Public speaking. It's the one thing that many people fear ... actually, dread!

If you're required to give presentations at work -- or if speaking in front of an audience is something that you feel called to do, in spite of your fear -- this article is for you.

Fear is an emotion, and like any emotion, it can be released and resolved.

The five-step process, that I'll share below, can be a great start to resolve those gnawing fears about talking in a front of a group.

Here's how it works:

Step 1. Accept How You Feel.

When we minimize how we feel ("I'm not really scared, that would be unprofessional," or "There's no reason to be scared, I'm not a baby!") that's not helpful. It is important to accept how we feel, without judgment. This means we could think to ourselves, "I feel afraid ... and it's OK to feel afraid."

This honest self-acceptance is necessary. Only then can we focus on releasing fear.

Step 2. Scream Out The Fear.

Have you ever seen how young children respond when they're scared? Do they sit silently, bottling it up? Or pretend to be happy? Nope.

They start screaming, releasing their fear and getting an adult's attention to address their needs. With their fear released, they feel calmer -- and with their needs met, they feel happier. (At which point they might start playing ... or take a nap!)

There's much we can learn from children about how to release fear safely and effectively.
I often encourage clients to release their fear by going to quiet, private space and screaming into a pillow -- because it muffles the sound -- until they feel a sense of release and calm, just like a child does.

Step 3. No, Seriously. Scream.

That last step -- screaming into a pillow -- might sound silly. You might feel tempted to skip it. That's understandable. But the thing is, fear is an emotion. We can't "think" or "reason" or "rationalize" ourselves out of feeling a strong emotion.

That emotional energy needs to be released -- before intellectual planning can begin. So seriously. Consider trying the scream-into-a-pillow technique. The next couple of steps might be a lot easier, after doing that.

Step 4. Have A Chat With Your Inner Child.

After trying Step 3, people inevitably feel calmer. Which means they can start to speak gently to that "aspect of themselves" which was holding the fear... Their inner child. That could be one person's inner 4-year-old, who got scolded for "talking too much." Or another person's inner 5-year-old, who was mocked for sharing the wrong answer during preschool math class -- after that, she rarely raised her hand to speak in class.

It can take time to understand the root of our fear -- and consulting a professional coach or psychologist can help. But it's not always necessary to "know" exactly where our fear is "coming from," in order to heal and resolve it. Here's a script that people have found useful, and that I, myself, have used to overcome public speaking jitters ... by nurturing the child from yesterday. Try it, if you'd like.

Out loud -- in a clear, strong voice -- you would tell yourself:

"That was then. This is now. I am no longer that scared child."

It can also be useful to imagine hugging the child that you once were, and saying:

"I love you, I'm here for you, I won't abandon you. I believe in you. I have confidence in you."

By saying these words, out loud, you're comforting the part of you that is still a small, scared child. You are teaching (or re-teaching) yourself that there is nothing to fear.

Again -- it might be tempting to skip this step, if it feels odd. But if you're inclined to give it a try, you might think of it this way: I've got nothing to lose, except stage fright!

Step 5. Affirm Your Right To Speak.

Now that we've accepted and released some fear, and comforted our inner child, the final step is to remind ourselves that, yes, we have a right to speak and be heard. In preparation for speaking in public, it can be helpful to ask ourselves two questions:

1. Who am I?

[Sample answer: I am an important member of this company. I am competent and I believe in what I'm doing.]

2. What am I doing standing up here?

[Sample answer: I am here to share my opinions. I have a right to be here and I feel privileged for that.]Writing down our answers can be helpful -- a visual reinforcement of our affirmations.

The next step would be, in a clear, proud voice, to read your answers out loud.

Try this at home, in a safe, private place -- and then, if possible, do it again a few moments before giving the presentation, for an extra bump of confidence. This five-step process might seem like a lot of work, but it's well worth the time and effort. Don't let fear stop you from saying what needs to be said.

As a psychologist and professional life coach, Dr. Suzanne Gelb's insights have been featured on more than 200 radio shows, 100 TV interviews and too many articles to keep score.

Step into her virtual office and discover how to change your life by changing the way you handle your own emotions.

And while you're visiting, pick up one of her Life Guides on life's trickiest challenges, from How To Find Work That You Love to How To Reach Your Ideal Weight, and everything in between: http://DrSuzanneGelb.com/life-guides/

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